Rule of the Routes: Infrastructure, Colonization, and ‘the Social Science’ in the Canadas from Conquest to Confederation

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Steckle, Rhys




Rule of the Routes offers a rich and detailed account of colonial social and political development from 1759 to 1875 by focussing on a state-led process of what is throughout referred to as 'infrastructural colonization'. Offering a novel account of state formation and infrastructure development by shifting from traditional infrastructural systems, namely highways, canals and railways, and toward mundane modes of transport, specifically rural routes, this thesis shows how agricultural settlement, communal development, rural infrastructures and forms of political administration became inextricably intertwined by the mid-nineteenth century. While states have always sought to ensure military control over their roads, attempts to establish an 'art of government' based on the prudent administration of the common routes of the people are comparatively more recent. Through an examination of a specific road-building initiative, the colonization roads project, Rule of the Routes offers an account of Canadian social and political development by outlining the State's use of common routes as a mechanism of social and political subjectification. Rule of the Routes shows how concerns with ruling populations can be seen in the very form of rural roads themselves, from their materials, width, orientation, layout of lots, maps depicting them, and their organizational administration. New ministries developed as techniques for representing the social, moral, and economic progress of colonization were institutionalized. Finally, Rule of the Routes documents conditions on the ground to offer a reflexive historical sociology revealing how colonial socio-political relations between the French and English, as well as imperial attempts to anglicize canadiens, motivated the early development of 'the social science' in the Canadas. The thesis concludes by demonstrating how attempts by state actors and amateurs alike to use the social science to demonstrate the progress of infrastructural colonization led to the creation of new territorial abstractions which led to changes in the form of infrastructural colonization in the 1870s and the end of the colonization roads.






Carleton University

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